I Don’t Know How You Do It

Fiction: “I said to my husband: I’m going to tell you how I got disinvited from my brunch group.”

Photo by Sérgio Alves Santos

I said to my husband: I’m going to tell you how I got disinvited from my brunch group.

We get together every Sunday and that has been the tradition for nearly four years. At this point, though, I really can’t remember how it started or how I even met all these women.

At this point, my husband gives me a look like Get on with it. So I get on with it.

Though we don’t all show up every week, we try our best. Oddly enough, I may be one of the more consistent members of the group.

Marie is the ringleader. She’d say it’s because she’s the Type A of the group but really it’s because she’s the oldest. Tanya is the hip young one of our group. She dresses as if she were ten years younger and dates 30-year-olds since her divorce, so I guess that makes her the young hip one. My husband says Tanya’s cigarette habit means she’s not as with the times as she’d like to be. Young people don’t like smoke. I don’t know much about that. Maybe he’s right. A lot of people our age still smoke, I say. I never did, but a lot of us do. Tanya has to take at least three cigarette breaks while we’re at brunch.

Marie and Tanya are the other most consistent members and incidentally, they were the only ones who showed up to brunch the other day.

Marie and Tanya think everything I do is hilarious. Truly, I could fart and these women would call me a “riot.”

We’re all dressed up in our beiges and our neutrals (of course Tanya has to show off her cleavage) and we were sitting at the brunch place and I can’t remember what we were laughing about but we were laughing and the waiter comes up and says, Is there anything I can get you ladies?

And of course Tanya starts flirting with him and Marie looks at me like, Look at her, and I look at her like, I know. She’s always doing that. She thinks the waiter flirts back. I think the waiter just wants a tip.

Anyway, Marie asks me, Oh Catherine, is your salad okay?

It really wasn’t that good, but I didn’t need the waiter to know that. It’s not why I come to brunch anyway. And Marie likes to make a fuss about things that aren’t a big deal.

So I say Yes. Why?

She says You’re not really touching it.

And I say I’m fine. I need another glass of wine though.

Oh, Catherine, Marie says like I’m incorrigible. I guess I am.

Of course, the waiter says, I’ll be back in a moment.

And then the girls’ favorite part of brunch starts. The compliments.

But honestly, Marie, says Tanya, I don’t know how you do it. You look so fresh.

Aw, you’re sweet, says Marie.

No, I’m not, I’m ENVIOUS, says Tanya, Tell me what the secret is and if he’ll take my insurance.

Stop honey, says Marie, It’s really quite simple. I exercise three times a day, I do my yoga in the morning, I stick to a health care regimen that takes five minutes in the morning, five minutes at night, when I snack, it’s fruits and vegetables, and I try to keep my stress down.

That’s all, Tanya asks and then she looks at me like Marie’s crazy.

Then Marie says, I mean, a few glasses of red wine helps.

And we laugh and we laugh because it’s so true. The waiter came back with my wine.

Speaking of, says Marie.

Thank you, I say.

Of course, says the waiter.

He leaves and we keep going with the compliments.

I could have done with some more dressing but I’ll survive, says Tanya. Then she says to Marie, Well, whatever you’re doing, honey, it’s working. Okay? Truly.

Well, look, I don’t know how you do it either, says Marie, You always look so put-together. Nobody in our little group has your fashion sense, and darling, that takes time. And your daughter! I’d give anything for one as easygoing as Danielle. She’s so great.

She really is, I say even though I haven’t seen Danielle since her birthday party eight months ago and couldn’t pick her out of a lineup.

She’s learning some hard truths right now, says Tanya, looking down at her knees like she spilled something there.

What about, asks Marie.

Oh. Boys. Life. But you know, I’ve been telling her for years, it’s a man’s world, baby, and you’re gonna have to be twice as good to get half of what a man gets.

Ooooooh that’s good, says Marie.

That’s so true, I say.

Thanks, says Tanya, I heard it on Scandal.

Oh! Love me some Shondaland!

Marie held up her champagne glass as if to toast to Shondaland and finished her mimosa.

Tanya smiled and said, We’ve all got our challenges, you know. We’ve got to stick together.

Then she looked at me and said, And yooooooouuuuuuu, Catherine, you have so much on your plate. I mean… Yeah. How do you…. do that?

And you know, I say to my husband, something in me just snapped. The way she said it to me. It’s like she thinks I don’t actually have anything going on. And God damn it, it kinda made me mad. So I just thought, you know, whatever. I’m so tired of this. So I just said, How do I do what?

Tanya’s kinda taken back and all and she finally says, What… you do.

I can tell Marie’s getting edgy, but she’s always edgy.

Yeah, Marie says, How do you do it?

Something in my head just goes snap and I think would it be the end of the world if this was my last brunch? And before I could even think Yes, I just started talking.

I’m hanging on by a thread, I say, I’ve been stealing my son’s ADHD medication since he was seven. My husband has to hide the bottles of whiskey I keep around the house, so I have to keep replacing them. He even found the one I hid in the toilet tank. I never thought he’d find that one. I don’t exercise, I like cigarettes, I eat two tons of Cheetos a week because that’s all my kids will eat for a snack, I hate working, I hate these lunches, I don’t want to be here, and yesterday morning, my five-year-old daughter called me a cunt.

And you know what they did, I say to my husband. You know what they did?

They threw you out of the breakfast club or whatever, he says.

Brunch club, I say.

He opens another can of beer.

No, you know what they say, they say, CATHERINE YOU’RE A GOD DAMN RIOT!! TRULY!

And Marie says, How DO you do that? You’re just so grounded. It’s enviable.

They didn’t say that, my husband says.

No, I say, they didn’t say that. But you know what’s sad about it all. They don’t even know I don’t have a son to steal ADHD meds from. Or a daughter to call me a cunt. You know how sad and funny that is. Isn’t it?

You been hitting the sauce again, Kathy, my husband says.

No, I say.

Then you’re going batty, he says, Either way, he says, Bad news.

Isn’t it just so great to think you can just lie about your life and nobody cares enough to know it’s a lie? It’s such a high. God, I rhymed. I’m rhyming.

Yeah, he says, You’re hitting the sauce again. Bad news.

I don’t know what I’ll do with my Sundays now, I say.

My husband lights up a cigarette.

They/he. Writer of fiction, screenplays, plays, reviews, essays, and poetry. Chicago. https://linktr.ee/jshetina

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